Betar jumps from the frying pan (Sakhnin) into the fire (Haifa)

Maccabi Haifa secured its first trophy of the season, but the Premier League championship race is far from over.

By SHARON SOLOMON
March 17, 2006 02:53
2 minute read.
Betar jumps from the frying pan (Sakhnin) into the fire (Haifa)

beitar players 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Maccabi Haifa secured its first trophy of the season by beating Ashdod SC in Wednesday's Toto Cup final, but the Premier League championship race is far from over. Last week's home loss to Walid Badir and Hapoel Tel Aviv has narrowed Haifa's lead to 11 points. Another poor result might open things up. The fresh Toto Cup holders face a stern challenge yet again as they travel to Teddy Stadium to take on Luis Fernandez's Betar Jerusalem in a highly anticipated match on Sunday evening. "Our win [last week] in Sakhnin was very important for the fans, who were disappointed with our State Cup exit," Fernandez explained. "We need a full Teddy Stadium and we can beat any team, including Maccabi Haifa." Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to get back to winning ways as it hosts lowly but dangerous Maccabi Petah Tikva, which managed a minimal win against Bnei Yehuda last week. Tel Aviv coach Ton Caanen will be missing top stars such as Avi Nimni, Eyal Berkovic and Giovanni Rosso, although goalkeeper Liran Strauber has resumed training and is expected to be in the starting lineup. "The Luzons'" veteran sweeper Morad Megamadov has finished serving his two-game suspension and will return to the starting 11. Forward Stanislav Dovrovin is lacking match fitness, but is expected to be in the match squad and take part in the game. Second-place Hapoel Tel Aviv, which will look to put aside its management problems as it hosts last placed Hapoel Kfar Saba, is hoping to collect all three points and put pressure on Maccabi Haifa. Kfar Saba's game has been removed from the weekend Toto betting form, but coach Eli Ohana believes this could motivate his players. "This is the hardest away game in the league," Ohana said. "But I hope we will be able to return with a positive result from Bloomfield Stadium." Nir Levin's Hapoel Petah Tikva travel north to "The Box" to take on Maccabi Netanya, which will be looking to stretch its two-game winning streak and maintain a safe gap from the relegation zone. Levin's team is facing rough times as it is currently ninth in the standings, just four points above the red line. Elnatan Salami is likely to be promoted to the starting lineup. Bnei Sakhnin will have its work cut out as it faces Nitzan Shirazi's Bnei Yehuda, is hoping to recover from the loss to Betar Jerusalem and wants to gain back the lost ground in its relegation battle. Bnei Yehuda's Matte Baturina has not recovered from his nagging injury, but is expected to be on the bench. Reuven Oved will continue to start in his place. Ashdod SC hosts Motti Ivanir's Upper Nazareth in an important bottom-of-the-table clash, with the visitors desperate for points after earning only one point in their last three games.

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